LONDON U.S. army sergeant Vincent Hancock produced a perfect finale to hold off the challenge of Denmark's Anders Golding and rally car driver Nasser Al Attiya of Qatar to win the Olympic men's skeet shooting gold on Tuesday.
Hancock, 23, shot all 25 clays in the six-man final for an Olympic record 148 out of 150 at an overcast Royal Artillery Barracks in south east London to retain the title he won in Beijing four years ago.
Golding took silver on 146 and Al Attiya (144) bronze after a shootoff with Russia's Valeriy Shomin for third.
"There is just no feeling like it," a beaming Hancock told reporters.
"Thank God for giving me the opportunity and putting me back on the podium again."
Hancock led from start to finish, shooting 74 of 75 targets in three sessions of qualifiers on Monday and 49 out of 50 in Tuesday's heats before picking up America's second skeet gold of the London Games following Kim Rhodes's success in the women's.
A remarkable effort by someone who recently thought about leaving the sport.
"Last year I almost considered quitting, I wasn't enjoying myself anymore, I didn't want to go train and for this sport you have to be dedicated to your training.
"My wife and I reassessed what we wanted to do, we prayed about it a lot and we came up with this is my passion, this is what I love to do every single day.
"I reset my goals, I wanted to come out here and win another Olympic gold medal and just keep going and win as many medals as possible and hopefully build my legacy enough that my kids, and the future generations of the sport, know me and I can pass on my knowledge to them."
Hancock, who will step down from military service in November, kept his gun thrown over his shoulder as he watched his competitors miss targets before sealing victory with a clay to spare from the eighth mark.
Ever the consummate professional, Hancock brought up pink smoke after hitting his final orange clay, pumping his fist into the air in celebration.
Denmark's Golding produced a strong performance in the final, scoring 24 in the final after a perfect 50 in the qualifiers, but his work in Monday's opening heats, where he missed three, let him down.
"I could have shot better in the first rounds," the tall Dane said. "In the final he shot a full house and even if I had shot full house I would have had the silver.
"Hancock is the best competitor you can find, he is very, very strong."
Hancock's celebrations could be described as mute in comparison to those of the Qatari delegation after Al Attiyah claimed the country's first medal in 12 years when he pipped birthday boy Valeriy Shomin of Russia in a shootoff.
The 2011 Dakar Rally winner and current world rally championship driver was competing in his fifth Olympics and picked up the tiny Gulf nation's third bronze medal when Shomin missed with his sixth shot in the decider.
The 41-year-old was mobbed by members of the Qatari delegation after his bronze success.
"I feel really fantastic, I have been waiting a long time, five Olympic Games, and I have been two times in the final and in Athens I was in a shootoff for a bronze medal and I lost," Al Attiyah said.
"I am so happy with this medal and I think my country is so happy about this. It is fantastic."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)